In a time of global unrest and mass migration, Travellers looks, with a philosophical eye, at the way humans have moved around the world. In the 17th and 18th centuries, ‘the grand tour’ was seen to complete the education of privileged young gentlemen while, in recent years, travel has been made more accessible than ever before.

Curator Peter McKay has selected a coherent group of works from artists both Australian and international, contemporary and historic, tracing the changing nature of travel, its often involuntary basis, and its many functions.

While travel may offer change and new experiences and opportunities for discovery for Australian travellers, the forced migration of the hundreds of thousands of people in Europe is also acknowledged in a selection that includes artists as diverse as JMW Turner and Craig Koomeeta.

McKay says, “I wanted to balance the idea of being empowered and wandering the world, to contrast this perception with forced migration, and those who are vilified for it. These travel experiences might reshape a sense of identity, and give a stronger insight into who we are. Together they raise questions of independence and limitation; the mutability of identity; and the potent experience of encounter and the element of chance in existence.”

Paintings by Jeffrey Smart, Jan Senbergs, Elwyn Lynn and Dadang Christanto, sculpture by Koomeeta and Gwyn Hansson Pigott, and film by Liam O’Brien, are further extended by netsuke, Japanese watercolours by Takahashi Hiroaki and the Chinese burial jar earthenware tradition. Travel may be within the home, between this world and the next, forced or recreational, traumatic or pleasurable. These concepts and more are explored in an exhibition that is diverse and stimulating.

Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
1 July – 29 October

Preview Words by Louise Martin-Chew